TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Yin: The Most Critical Issue Facing Tax Administration Today -- And What to Do About It

George K. Yin (Virginia), The Most Critical Issue Facing Tax Administration Today -- And What to Do About It:

This very brief paper contains the text of the keynote address delivered on June 19, 2014 to a research conference in Washington, DC on Advancing Tax Administration, co-sponsored by the IRS and the Tax Policy Center.

July 1, 2014 in IRS News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Subscribing to TaxProf Blog

SubscribeWe offer three ways to have TaxProf Blog content automatically delivered to your computer, tablet, or smart phone:

RSS Feeds:  You can subscribe to one of three different feeds to receive TaxProf Blog posts via your RSS reader:

Email:  You can subscribe to receive TaxProf Blog posts via email through one of three approaches:

  • FeedBlitz:  Enter your email address here to receive TaxProf Blog posts via email, delivered to you either daily, every 12 hours, every 8 hours, every 4 hours, or hourly (at your option).
  • TaxProf Blog Tax Email Service:  Email me to be added to my twice daily (during the week) and once daily (on the weekend) emails to the TaxProf Discussion Group with titles and links to recent TaxProf Blog posts on tax topics.
  • TaxProf Blog Legal Education Email Service:  Email me to be added to my email distribution list with titles and links to recent TaxProf Blog posts on legal education topics.

July 1, 2014 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Support TaxProf Blog by Shopping on Amazon

Amazon-associatesTaxProf Blog participates in the amazon.com affiliate program. You can help support TaxProf Blog at no cost to you by making purchases through Amazon links on the blog and through the "Shop Amazon" tab on the header at the top of the blog:

Header

and the search box in the right column of the blog:

Amazon Search

July 1, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: Americans Think We Have the World’s Best Colleges. We Don’t.

New York Times:  Americans Think We Have the World’s Best Colleges. We Don’t.:

Americans have a split vision of education. Conventional wisdom has long held that our K-12 schools are mediocre or worse, while our colleges and universities are world class. While policy wonks hotly debate K-12 reform ideas like vouchers and the Common Core state standards, higher education is largely left to its own devices. Many families are worried about how to get into and pay for increasingly expensive colleges. But the stellar quality of those institutions is assumed.

Yet a recent multinational study of adult literacy and numeracy skills suggests that this view is wrong. America’s schools and colleges are actually far more alike than people believe — and not in a good way. The nation’s deep education problems, the data suggest, don’t magically disappear once students disappear behind ivy-covered walls. ...

America’s perceived international dominance of higher education, by contrast, rests largely on global rankings of top universities. According to a recent ranking by the London-based Times Higher Education, 18 of the world’s top 25 universities are American. Similarly, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published annually by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, gives us 19 of 25.

But there is a problem with this way of thinking. When President Obama has said, “We have the best universities,” he has not meant: “Our universities are, on average, the best” — even though that’s what many people hear. He means, “Of the best universities, most are ours.” The distinction is important. ...

Math

Update:  New York Times, More on American Colleges’ Standing in the World

July 1, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

The IRS Scandal, Day 418

Monday, June 30, 2014

Slate: Now Is a Great Time to Apply to Law School. Really.

Following up on last week's posts:

Slate:  Now Is a Great Time to Apply to Law School; We Aren’t Joking—Promise, by Jordan Weissmann:

After several wretched post-recession years, the job market for new law school graduates may be on the verge of a recovery. So I recently published a post titled Apply to Law School Now! We’re Serious.

A few writers, including the delightfully acidic folks of Above the Law, think I’m disastrously off base—that I have overestimated the strength of tomorrow’s legal labor market and misleadingly ignored the staggering cost of a law school education. So today, I want to explore in a little more depth the reasons why—despite the horrors of the past few years and the sky-high tuition rates that schools charge—now really is a good time to pick up an LSAT guide. ...

As the economy healed and horror stories about jobless and indebted young law grads proliferated, however, something crucial happened: Applications tumbled to their lowest level in at least 30 years. In the fall of 2013, just 39,700 students entered their first year of law school. Given the typical dropout rate, that means we should expect no more than 36,000 to graduate, down about 23 percent from last year’s overstuffed total.

At the same time, it seems the legal job market has begun to stabilize. Last year, 32,775 graduates found full-time jobs lasting at least a year, including positions like judicial clerkships, up slightly from 2012. For such an enormous class of students, that total was woefully insufficient. But here’s the key bit: If the market produces the same number of jobs in 2016, when around 36,000 students are set to graduate, job hunting is going to become a relative cinch. Theoretically, 91 percent of the class could land long-term, full-time work—on par, if not better, than some of the legal industry’s best years.

That’s my basic reason for optimism. Right now, law school looks like a stock that crashed too far after a panic, and is suddenly a bit undervalued. It’s a good time to buy. But of course, not everyone agrees. So let’s go through some of the objections.

Continue reading

June 30, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

Krugman: Charlatans, Cranks, Tax Policy, and Kansas

Following up on Saturday's post, If You Cut Taxes, You Get Less Tax Revenue:  New York Times op-ed:  Charlatans, Cranks and Kansas, by Paul Krugman (Princeton):

KansasTwo years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. Sam Brownback, the governor, proposed the legislation — in percentage terms, the largest tax cut in one year any state has ever enacted — in close consultation with the economist Arthur Laffer. And Mr. Brownback predicted that the cuts would jump-start an economic boom — “Look out, Texas,” he proclaimed.

But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.

There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.

Continue reading

June 30, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vox: What the Right Doesn't Get About Piketty

Following up on last week's post, Mankiw: How Inherited Wealth Helps the Economy:  Vox, What the Right Doesn't Get About Piketty, by Matthew Yglesias:

Greg Mankiw's column over the weekend, "How inherited wealth helps the economy" is the latest entry into a burgeoning genre of Thomas Piketty's rebuttals that appear to be written by people who aren't familiar with what proposals Piketty is advancing.

But Piketty isn't against the idea of wealth accumulation or even against the idea young of people inheriting accumulated wealth from their ancestors. ... "My point is not to increase taxation of wealth. It's actually to reduce taxation of wealth for most people, but to increase it for those who already have a lot of wealth."

June 30, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Spending by the IRS, 1970-2014

Outlays

Data here. (Hat Tip: Len Burman.)

June 30, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Stiglitz: Inequality Is Not Inevitable

Divide 2New York Times:  Inequality Is Not Inevitable, by Joseph E. Stiglitz (Columbia):

An insidious trend has developed over this past third of a century. A country that experienced shared growth after World War II began to tear apart, so much so that when the Great Recession hit in late 2007, one could no longer ignore the fissures that had come to define the American economic landscape. How did this “shining city on a hill” become the advanced country with the greatest level of inequality?

One stream of the extraordinary discussion set in motion by Thomas Piketty’s timely, important book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has settled on the idea that violent extremes of wealth and income are inherent to capitalism. In this scheme, we should view the decades after World War II — a period of rapidly falling inequality — as an aberration.

This is actually a superficial reading of Mr. Piketty’s work, which provides an institutional context for understanding the deepening of inequality over time. Unfortunately, that part of his analysis received somewhat less attention than the more fatalistic-seeming aspects.

Over the past year and a half, The Great Divide, a series in The New York Times for which I have served as moderator, has also presented a wide range of examples that undermine the notion that there are any truly fundamental laws of capitalism. The dynamics of the imperial capitalism of the 19th century needn’t apply in the democracies of the 21st. We don’t need to have this much inequality in America.

Our current brand of capitalism is an ersatz capitalism. For proof of this go back to our response to the Great Recession, where we socialized losses, even as we privatized gains. Perfect competition should drive profits to zero, at least theoretically, but we have monopolies and oligopolies making persistently high profits. C.E.O.s enjoy incomes that are on average 295 times that of the typical worker, a much higher ratio than in the past, without any evidence of a proportionate increase in productivity.

If it is not the inexorable laws of economics that have led to America’s great divide, what is it? The straightforward answer: our policies and our politics. People get tired of hearing about Scandinavian success stories, but the fact of the matter is that Sweden, Finland and Norway have all succeeded in having about as much or faster growth in per capita incomes than the United States and with far greater equality.

So why has America chosen these inequality-enhancing policies? Part of the answer is that as World War II faded into memory, so too did the solidarity it had engendered. As America triumphed in the Cold War, there didn’t seem to be a viable competitor to our economic model. Without this international competition, we no longer had to show that our system could deliver for most of our citizens. ...

The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality. In fact, as he recognizes, Mr. Piketty’s argument rests on the ability of wealth-holders to keep their after-tax rate of return high relative to economic growth. How do they do this? By designing the rules of the game to ensure this outcome; that is, through politics. ...

Continue reading

June 30, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN LogoSSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 750 American and international law school faculties and 3,000 law professors by (among other things) the number of paper downloads from the SSRN database.  Here is the new list (through June 1, 2014) of the Top 25 U.S. Tax Professors in two of the SSRN categories: all-time downloads and recent downloads (within the past 12 months):

 

 

All-Time Downloads

 

Recent Downloads

1

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

38,995

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

6932

2

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

26,070

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2823

3

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

22,653

D. Dharmapala (Illinois)

2533

4

D. Dharmapala (Illinois)

19,787

Richard Ainsworth (BU) 

2508

5

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

19,782

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

2183

6

James Hines (Michigan)

19,542

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

2030

7

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

18,915

Bridget Crawford (Pace]

1901

8

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

18,678

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1846

9

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

15,778

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

1832

10

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

15,312

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

1766

11

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

14,797

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1750

12

David Weisbach (Chicago)

14,084

Omri Marian (Florida)

1738

13

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

14,065

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1694

14

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

14,046

James Hines (Michigan)

1583

15

David Walker (BU)

13,833

Dick Harvey (Villanova)

1554

16

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

13,592

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

1431

17

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

13,555

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1425

18

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

13,522

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1401

19

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

13,399

Susan Morse (Texas)

1342

20

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

13,362

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1268

21

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

12,757

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1266

22

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

12,424

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

1260

23

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

11,917

David Gamage (UCBerkeley)

1204

24

Ed McCaffery (USC)

11,667

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1165

25

Wendy Gerzog (Baltimore)

11,610

Dan Simmons (UC-Davis)

1162

Note that this ranking includes full-time tax professors with at least one tax paper on SSRN, and all papers (including non-tax papers) by these tax professors are included in the SSRN data.

Continue reading

June 30, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rosenzweig: The Article III Fiscal Power

Adam H. Rosenzweig (Washington U.), The Article III Fiscal Power, 29 Const. Comm. ___ (2014):

What should happen when Congress and the President find themselves in a fiscal policy showdown resulting in a Constitutional violation? This question has risen to the fore in light of the recent political showdowns over the so-called “debt ceiling.” But the question is one that reaches far beyond the debt ceiling debate. Rather, it implicates the broader question of the proper role of the coordinate branches to make the government work within the Constitutional framework.

Continue reading

June 30, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Roig: The Case For Retaining Law Faculty Tenure

Jorge R. Roig (Charleston), The First Thing We Do, 47 J. Marshall L. Rev. ___ (2014):

There is currently a concerted effort to dumb down America. In the midst of this, the American Bar Association’s Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recently agreed to propose that tenure for law professors be eliminated as a requirement for accreditation of law schools. This article analyzes the arguments for and against tenure in legal academia, and concludes that the main proposed justifications for eliminating tenure are highly questionable, at best. A lawyer is more than a legal technocrat. Lawyers are policy makers and public defenders. They are prosecutors and activists. And the development of a critical and independent mind is no more important in any area of human action than in the law. There is a concerted effort to turn law schools into automaton production lines. Practice-ready, skills-oriented legal education (quite meritorious in itself) has become code for the manufacture of attorneys capable only of following their corporate clients’ instructions to the tee. The goal of this concerted effort is not a truly practice-ready and skilled attorney. The endgame is a mindless legal machine. That is not what a legal education is about. The survival of critical thought is at stake. This is not just about law professors. This is but one salvo in a much larger war against independent minds.

June 30, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 417

IRS Logo 2Tax Analysts Blog:  Lost Lerner E-mails Latest Example of IRS Death Wish, by Jeremy Scott:

Democrats rushed to Koskinen’s defense. That is, perhaps, understandable, even though much of what the IRS has done during this scandal is indefensible. Democrats probably want to defend their president’s pick to head the IRS, and maybe they want to try to change the narrative heading into a potentially disastrous midterm election. But the reality is that the IRS isn’t doing them any favors. There’s only so much incompetence and disingenuous behavior that can be run through a political spin machine. The Democrats’ reflexive defense of Lerner (whose conduct can’t be excused) and their apparent willingness to accept any explanation from Koskinen (who didn’t even try to adequately explain why he hid information on the lost e-mails from February until late June) is baffling. Democrats weakly attempted to paint the GOP as on a witch hunt for a conspiracy, as though the IRS’s mismanagement and appearance of bias weren’t enough to justify congressional inquiry.

Is there a conspiracy or coverup? Christopher Bergin eloquently explained why it’s hard to know and why that doesn’t matter because tax administration has been damaged either way. And that’s the key point. Lerner, former acting Commissioner Steven Miller, and many other officials have engaged in conduct that might have irreparably harmed the Service’s reputation on Capitol Hill and that once again undermined the public’s trust in the nation’s tax collector. And Democrats’ desperate attempts to rush to the president’s defense to limit the damage to their party’s electoral chances will not fix that problem. Instead, the solution will take serious soul-searching at the IRS and a commitment to being genuinely open and transparent with lawmakers and taxpayers.  

Continue reading

June 30, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, June 29, 2014

NY Times Debate: Is Contemporary Capitalism Compatible with Christian Values?

NY Times Room for DebateNew York Times Room for Debate:  God and Mammon:

Jesus drove money changers out of the Temple, calling them “a den of thieves.” Of the profit-centric world view, Pope Francis warned, “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market,” to provide economic justice. Others call Christianity and capitalism inextricable.

Is contemporary capitalism compatible with Christian values?

June 29, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThis week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads on SSRN is the same as last week's list:

  1. [271 Downloads]  Carried Interest for the Common Man, by Richard Winchester (Thomas Jefferson)
  2. [235 Downloads]  The Real Problem with Carried Interests, by Heather Field (UC-Hastings)
  3. [199 Downloads]  A State Tax Approach to Regulating Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act, by Samuel Eisenberg (Stanford), Michael Wara (Stanford), Adele Morris (Brookings Institution), Marta Darby (Stanford) & Joel Minor (Stanford)
  4. [193 Downloads]  Sales Suppression as a Service (SSaaS) & the Apple Store Solution, by Richard Ainsworth (Boston University)
  5. [140 Downloads]  The Relationship between China's Tax Treaties and Indirect Transfer Antiavoidance Rules, by Qiguang Hardy Zhou (Baker & McKenzie, Shanghai City, China)

June 29, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bill and Melinda Gates' Stanford Commencement Speech: The Power of Optimism and Empathy

(Click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video directly on YouTube to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

Transcript here. (Hat Tip: Phil Bohl.)

June 29, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 416

IRS Logo 2Tax Analysts Blog:  The IRS Has Been Set Up, by Christopher Bergin:

The IRS’s job is to collect taxes, and historically it’s been pretty darn good at that. But over the years, Congress has tasked the Service with many things that really have nothing to do with collecting revenue. ... So let’s have the IRS administer the healthcare system. Anybody want to hazard a guess about how that’ll go? ...

And that brings us back to section 501(c)(4), through which the IRS has been charged with regulating a part of the political fundraising process. This involves making precise calculations of the amount of political activity engaged in by social welfare organizations seeking tax-exempt status. How is the IRS supposed to determine that? And now added to this paradigm, apparently, is the political pressure being put on the IRS. So if a Democrat is in the White House, all conservative organizations are bad. And when a Republican is in the White House, I’m betting the heat will be on the IRS to determine that all liberal organizations are bad. Is that how this works?

I don’t know if the IRS has been politicized. Until recently that possibility would have been unthinkable. But the potential of the 501(c)(4) rules to be a setup for the politicization of the IRS is enormous. You simply can’t have the tax collector refereeing the people who provide it with its budget. It’s understandable – although, I think, shortsighted – that the Republicans want to starve the beast for its lack of transparency in the investigation of how it handled social welfare organizations. But the beast (and I don’t believe the IRS is a beast) is in real trouble now.

Section 501(c)(4) should be repealed immediately, and the IRS should be tasked with doing its job: collecting taxes. What are the odds that politicians will do that? Nil, because they’re the only ones benefiting from this mess.

But we are where we are, and I am truly worried. If this agency has been politically corrupted, it will not be able to function. And that leaves us with a question. Who's going to collect the revenue? 

Continue reading

June 29, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

WSJ: What Taxpayers With Offshore Accounts Need to Know Before Confessing to the IRS

Wall Street Journal Tax Report:  The Hazards of Offshore-Account Disclosure: Here's What Taxpayers Need to Consider Before They Confess, by Laura Saunders:

FATCATaxpayers should think carefully before entering a new Internal Revenue Service program for offshore-account holders whose conduct wasn't "willful," experts say.

"The term 'willful' has traps for the unwary, and people are falling into them," says Barbara Kaplan, a criminal tax lawyer at Greenberg Traurig in New York.

Continue reading

June 28, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

NY Times: If You Cut Taxes, You Get Less Tax Revenue

New York Times:  Yes, If You Cut Taxes, You Get Less Tax Revenue, by Josh Barro:

Kansas has a problem. In April and May, the state planned to collect $651 million from personal income tax. But instead, it received only $369 million.

In 2012, Kansas lawmakers passed a large and rather unusual income tax cut. It was expected to reduce state tax revenue by more than 10 percent, and Gov. Sam Brownback said it would create “tens of thousands of jobs.”

In part, the tax cut worked in the typical way, by cutting tax rates and increasing the standard deduction. But Kansas also eliminated tax on various kinds of income, including income described commonly — and sometimes misleadingly — as “small-business income.” Basically, if your income results in the generation of a Form 1099-MISC instead of a W-2, it’s probably not taxable anymore in Kansas. ...

While no state has gone as far as Kansas, four others — Missouri, Ohio, Oregon and South Carolina — have passed laws in the last decade that give some small-business owners lower tax rates than wage earners. By creating this preference for some types of income over others, Kansas has run into at least five problems:

  1. It’s sometimes possible to turn taxable salary income into untaxed “business” income.
  2. A lot of the beneficiaries of the tax break won’t be small businesses.
  3. It’s not clear that there’s anything special about small businesses for the purpose of job creation.
  4. Some of the revenue loss doesn’t even benefit taxpayers.
  5. The state budget is suffering.

Continue reading

June 28, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Professors Read Mean Student Evaluations

Inside Higher Ed, Mean Tweets, Academic Style:

In the spirit of Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets,” a Canadian university’s student newspaper posted a video this week that features professors reading aloud unflattering reviews from the website Rate My Professors.

 

June 28, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 415

IRS Logo 2Tax Update Blog:  Why Did Lois Lerner Work at the IRS?:

This question came to mind in discussing the Lerner emails with a reader, who noted how a Politico piece about the Grassley email chain revealed this week pointed out this high-level IRS leader’s evident lack of tax skills:

Former ex-IRS tax exempt division chief Marcus Owens said the email chain shows Lerner knew very little about tax law, as there would have been nothing wrong with Grassley and his wife attending such an event, so long as the income was reported. It is nothing that rises to the level of referral for examination,” Owens said.

It is a mystery.  Her Wikipedia biography shows that she was a cum laude graduate of Northeastern University and the Western New England College of Law.  She worked as a high-level attorney at the Federal Election Commission, but moved to IRS as “Director Rulings and Agreements” in the exempt organizations branch of the IRS.  She rose to Director of Exempt Organizations in 2006.

Her resume, then, is that of a bureaucrat, rather than a tax practitioner or specialist.  She apparently never practiced tax law before moving into her important policy position — important in the tax world, anyway.

This sort of thing may be common in the federal bureaucracy.  It’s likely that she got a raise for the move, or something.  But it seems that while you could take the girl out of the FEC, you couldn’t take the FEC out of the girl.  She took it upon herself to monitor the electoral process with the tools of the tax law.

Megan McArdle explains why that was a bad idea:

This exchange suggests that Lois Lerner not only didn’t have a good, basic grasp of the tax law she was supposed to be administering, but also viewed her job as an extension of her work at the Federal Election Commission.

That’s not what the IRS is for. The IRS is not given power over nonprofit status in order to root out electoral corruption or the appearance of it. It is given power over nonprofit status in order to make sure that the Treasury gets all the revenue to which it’s entitled

Unfortunately, politicians see the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, and it’s unsurprising that an IRS bureaucrat would see it the same way.

Moreover, Lerner’s overbroad instincts also seemed to kick into high gear when Republican politicians were involved. Of course, such reports might well be survivor bias — Republicans are complaining about Lerner, while Democrats who also had run-ins with her may be keeping quiet for fear of fueling the fire. At this point, however, the fire is burning merrily on its own. If Democrats who encountered Lerner’s overzealous use of her powers are out there, they’d do well to come forward and tell their stories to reassure Americans that even if her actions were overbroad, they weren’t broadly partisan.

They would have emerged by now.  The stats, as we noted yesterday, demonstrate one-sided enforcement.

Chart

It’s unlikely that Ms. Lerner came to the IRS with the idea of using her position to harass the opposition.  She just happened to be in a position to do so when applications from groups she didn’t like — perhaps that she even saw as dangerous and wrong — came across her desk.  It’s possible that she did it entirely on her own.  And that’s the scariest thing — a bureaucracy that moves on its own to squash ungoodthinkers is much more dangerous than a top-down conspiracy.  It may be hard to replace an administration, but it’s almost impossible to replace a bureaucracy.

New York Times:  Is The Times Ignoring a Scandal at the I.R.S.?:

Has The Times been interested enough in the politically charged events involving the Internal Revenue Service? Many readers don’t think so. ...

I asked David Joachim, the Washington-based reporter and editor who has written several of the I.R.S. stories, to respond to this reader and others who believe The Times has not pursued the story aggressively enough.

Mr. Joachim responded by email. He noted that reader comments on the stories show how polarized the feelings are:

One side sees a Nixonian abuse of power and cover-up; the other sees an effort to smear the White House for electoral gain in the midterms. That stuff brings out passions. ... We think we’ve paid copious attention to this story, and we will continue to do so. It’s an important story.>/em>

My take: The Times was somewhat late in beginning to cover the latest development about the lost emails. My office had begun to field several days’ worth of reader protests on the lack of attention when the first story finally went online. Despite that slow start and the quiet display of the subsequent stories (an analytical piece might have been a good choice for the front page), The Times has given its readers insightful coverage of a situation heavily clouded by partisan politics.

Continue reading

June 28, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, June 27, 2014

CPAs: IRS's 'Voluntary' Regulation of Tax Preparers Lacks Statutory Authorization From Congress, Contravenes D.C. Circuit Decision, and Violates Administrative Procedure Act

RTRPIn February 2014, the D.C. Circuit unanimously held that the IRS lacked the statutory authority to regulate tax return preparers.  Loving v IRS, No. 13-5061 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 11, 2014).  For an extensive analysis of the decision, see this TaxProf Blog op-ed by Steve Johnson (Florida State).

The IRS yesterday announced a "voluntary" program to regulate tax return preparers.  IRS Commissioner John Koskinen stated:

[T]he IRS had started a mandatory program of education and testing for unregulated tax return preparers who did not have professional credentials. But we had to suspend that program because the courts ruled that we didn’t have the legal authority to require education and testing. So we’re launching a voluntary program as a temporary substitute. It’s called the Annual Filing Season Program.

I say “temporary” because we have been urging Congress to enact a proposal in the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget that would give us the authority for mandatory oversight of return preparers. This voluntary program is not the ideal solution. But until legislation is enacted, we still have a responsibility to taxpayers and to our tax system to keep moving forward with our efforts to improve service to taxpayers.

See also the statement by National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.

In a 14 page letter to Commissioner Koskinen, the American Institute of CPAs argues that the program is illegal:

We write today to express our strong concern that the IRS’s proposed program—in which tax return preparers would receive an IRS certificate for display in return for completing a continuing education program that includes a comprehension assessment (the “proposed program”)—would cause significant legal problems that may ultimately frustrate the IRS’s goals, confuse the public, and lead to litigation.  ...

First, no statute authorizes the proposed program. The IRS’s general authority to administer the tax code under 26 U.S.C. § 7803 does not provide an adequate basis to proceed. Because federal agencies may act only pursuant to a valid delegation of authority by Congress, the IRS may not implement the proposed program. This fatal flaw cannot be overcome by the IRS. That no statutory provision expressly prohibits such a program does not legitimize an otherwise illegitimate act. 

Second, and relatedly, the proposed program will inevitably be viewed as an end-run around Loving v. IRS, which held that the IRS lacks authority to regulate tax return preparers under 31 U.S.C. § 330. To be sure, the regulations invalidated in Loving were mandatory, and the proposed program is purportedly voluntary. But in reality tax return preparers would face an overwhelming, compelled incentive to participate in the IRS’s credentialing program, meaning that the proposed program will be de facto mandatory. In the wake of Loving, that is impermissible.

Third, the IRS has evidently concluded, in developing the proposed program, that it need not comply with the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). This is incorrect. ...

Finally, the current proposal is arbitrary and capricious because it fails to address the problems presented by unethical tax return preparers who defraud their clients, runs counter to evidence presented to the IRS, and will create market confusion. ...

We believe that the proposed program is unlawful and improper. We continue to believe that additional regulation of tax return preparers might yield significant benefits and that the IRS can achieve these objectives while remaining consistent with Loving and other statutory limitations on the IRS’s authority.

June 27, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (11)

Weekly Tax Roundup

University of Oxford 8th Annual Academic Tax Symposium

OxfordThe Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation's 8th Annual Academic Tax Symposium concludes today with these speakers and papers:

David Gamage (UC-Berkeley), On Double-distortion Arguments, Distribution Policy, and the Optimal Choice of Tax Instruments
Discussant:  Jacob Nussim (Bar-Ilan) 

Joerg Paetzold (Salzburg), Unwilling, Unable or Uninformed to Cheat? Tax Evasion vVa Self-reporting in Austria (wth Hannes Winner (Salzburg))
Discussant:  Nirupama Rao (NYU) 

Martin Ruf (Tübingen), Tax Avoidance as a Driver of Mergers and Acquisitions (with Thomas Belz (Mannheim), Leslie Robinson (Dartmouth) & Christian Steffens (Mannheim))
Discussant:  Paul Baker (Bath)

Rosanne Altshuler (Rutgers), The Spillover Effects of Outward Foreign Direct Investment on Home Countries: Evidence from the United States (with Jitao Tang (Ernst & Young))
Discussant:  Estelle Dauchy (New Economic School, Moscow)

June 27, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

 Weekly Roundup

June 27, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

 Weekly Roundup

June 27, 2014 in Legal Education, Weekly Legal Education Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ: Are Law Schools Heading Into a Bull Market?

Following up on yesterday's post, Slate: Things Are Looking Rosy for the Law School Class of 2018: Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Are Law Schools Heading Into a Bull Market?:

BullThe argument advanced by Mr. Weissmann [in Slate] is one that’s slowly gaining currency among legal education observers. University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo expressed similar optimism in an article for Forbes last fall. Law Blog, in an earlier post, peered into the crystal ball as well and, using slightly different assumptions, predicted that the number of graduates would fall to about 34,000 by 2017. [See also National Law Journal. Tax Prof Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.) first made this point in 2013.]

The Slate piece concludes on a cautious note, tacking on several “to be sures.” “Some lower-ranked schools will continue to deliver miserable job prospects for their students, just as they have for years,” the piece says.

Continue reading

June 27, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Virginia Tax Review Publishes New Issue

Virginia Tax Review 2The Virginia Tax Review has published Vol. 33, No. 2 (Fall 2013):

June 27, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality, and the Great Recession

More on the Nation's First Hybrid J.D.

MitchellFollowing up on my previous post, ABA Approves First Hybrid Online J.D.:  U.S. News & World Report, New Partially Online Law Degree May Open Door to Similar Programs:

Half of the learning in the program takes place online, with students visiting campus only nine times in four years.  ... The new J.D. at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., is the first of its type to be approved by the ABA – and may open the door to other law schools to pursue similar degrees, especially if the experiment pans out.

No fully online law schools are currently accredited by the ABA. The designation is significant because states typically allow students to sit for state bar exams only if they have degrees from ABA-accredited schools. California is an exception, allowing graduates of its online law schools to sit for the California bar exam. This has meant that graduates from online law schools are generally shut out of legal practice, except in California.

The ABA’s approval of the new half online, half on-site law program at William Mitchell, which begins in January, should smooth the path for its graduates to take bar exams in any state, says Barry Currier, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education.

Jonathan H. Stein, an Oxford, Mississippi-based cardiologist who has enrolled in Mitchell’s program because he wants to advocate in court for universal health insurance, sees the Mitchell program as one that is bound to have a big impact on the nation’s law schools. “It’s going to put a lot of pressure on everything within the legal education process,” he says. “Once somebody starts, then everybody else is fair game.”

Most law schools could already be offering more online learning under current standards – and haven’t chosen to do so, Currier says. The ABA currently allows accredited law schools to offer up to 12 credit hours via distance learning, though that could soon be expanding to 15 credits, he says. ...

Continue reading

June 27, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 414

Continue reading

June 27, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

University of Oxford 8th Annual Academic Tax Symposium

OxfordThe Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation's 8th Annual Academic Tax Symposium continues today with these speakers and papers:

Li Liu (Oxford), Small Business Incorporation and Investment: The Role of Corporation Tax (with Michael Devereux (Oxford))
Discussant:  Tim Goodspeed (CUNY)

Joana Naritomi (Harvard), Consumers as Tax Auditors
Discussant:  Jon Kerr (CUNY) 

Daniel Reck (University of Michigan), Reporting What You Can't Hide: How Credit Card Information Reporting Affects Small Business Tax Compliance (with Brett Collins (IRS), Jeffrey Hoopes (Ohio State) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan))
Discussant:  Michelle Hanlon (MIT)

Alex Raskolnikov (Columbia), The Uneasy Case for Graduated Tax Penalties
Discussant:  Miranda Stewart (Melbourne)

Matthew Smith (U.S. Treasury Department), At a Loss: Corporate Elasticity of Income at the Zero Kink (with Elena Patel (U.S. Treasury Department) & Nathan Seegert (Utah))
Discussant:  Tuomas Kosonen (VATT, Helsinki)

Eric Zwick (Harvard), Do Financial Frictions Amplify Fiscal Policy? Evidence from Business Investment Stimulus
Discussant:  Dominika Langenmayr (Munich)

Mazhar Waseem (Manchester) Taxes, Informality and Income Shifting: Evidence From a Recent Pakistani Tax Reform
Discussant:  Miguel Almunia (Warwick)

June 26, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Paul Daugerdas (Jenkens & Gilchrist) Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Tax Shelter Fraud

The Impact of Taxes on Carmelo Anthony's Free Agency Decision

Sports Illustrated:  How Much Carmelo Can Make as an NBA Free Agent, by Michael McCann (New Hampshire):

AnthonyAnthony's financial decision-making is also affected by income tax rates, which vary widely by state and, as New York City residents know, municipality. SI.com and tax expert Robert Raiola have crunched the numbers for Anthony (whose projected contract amounts are provided by Spotrac.com). We break down how much he would likely earn, after taxes and the standard 4 percent agent commission, if he signed max deals with the Knicks, Bulls, Heat and Rockets.

Carmelo

Forbes:   How State Taxes Could Play A Role In Carmelo Anthony's Landing Spot, by Tony Nitti

(Hat Tip:  Bill Turnier.)

June 26, 2014 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Robot Doctors, Online Lawyers and Automated Architects: The Future of the Professions?

The Guardian: Robot Doctors, Online Lawyers and Automated Architects: The Future of the Professions?

Advances in technology have long been recognised as a threat to manual labour. Now highly skilled, knowledge-based jobs that were once regarded as safe could be at risk. How will they adapt to the digital age?

Oxford academics Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A Osborne have predicted computerisation could make nearly half of jobs redundant within 10 to 20 years. Office work and service roles, they wrote, were particularly at risk. But almost nothing is impervious to automation. It has swept through shop floors and factories, transformed businesses big and small, and is beginning to revolutionise the professions.

Knowledge-based jobs were supposed to be safe career choices, the years of study it takes to become a lawyer, say, or an architect or accountant, in theory guaranteeing a lifetime of lucrative employment. That is no longer the case. Now even doctors face the looming threat of possible obsolescence. Expert radiologists are routinely outperformed by pattern-recognition software, diagnosticians by simple computer questionnaires. In 2012, Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla predicted that algorithms and machines would replace 80% of doctors within a generation.

In their much-debated book The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argued that we now face an intense period of creative destruction. "Technological progress," they warned, "is going to leave behind some people, perhaps even a lot of people, as it races ahead … there's never been a worse time to be a worker with only 'ordinary' skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate."

So where does that leave the professions, whose hard-won expertise is beginning to fall within the power of computers and artificial intelligence to emulate? The efficiency of computerisation seems likely to spell the end of the job security past generations sought in such careers. For many, what were once extraordinary skillsets will soon be rendered ordinary by the advance of the machines. What will it mean to be a professional then?

"We'll see what I call decomposition, the breaking down of professional work into its component parts," says leading legal futurist professor Richard Susskind. Susskind's forthcoming book Beyond the Professions, co-authored with his son Daniel Susskind, examines the transformations already underway across the sectors that once offered jobs for life. He predicts a process not unlike the division of labour that wiped out skilled artisans and craftsmen in the past: the dissolution of expertise into a dozen or more streamlined processes.

"Some of these parts will still require expert trusted advisers acting in traditional ways," he says. "But many other parts will be standardised or systematised or made available with online service." In a previous book Tomorrow's Lawyers, he predicts the creation of eight new legal roles at the intersection of software and law. Many of the job titles sound at home in IT companies: legal knowledge engineer, legal technologist, project manager, risk manager, process analyst.

Continue reading

June 26, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Death of Former IRS Commissioner Johnnie Walters, Refused President's Request to Audit His Enemies

WaltersNew York Times, Johnnie M. Walters, Ex-IRS Chief, Dies at 94:

Johnnie M. Walters, a commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service under President Richard M. Nixon who left office after refusing to prosecute people on Nixon’s notorious “enemies list,” died on Tuesday at his home in Greenville, S.C. He was 94. ...

Nixon had fired his first IRS commissioner, Randolph W. Thrower, for resisting White House pressure to punish political opponents. Mr. Thrower, who served from 1969 to 1971, died at 100 in March. ...

Mr. Walters had not been told of Nixon’s other job requirements, as revealed in a White House conversation recorded on May 13, 1971. “I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what he’s told, that every income-tax return I want to see I see, that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends,” the president said.

Mr. Walters failed to follow this script — which was unknown to him — when John W. Dean III, the White House counsel, summoned him to his office on Sept. 11, 1972. Mr. Dean handed him the “enemies list” of 200 people, most prominent Democrats, whom he wanted investigated.

"I was shocked,” Mr. Walters said in a 1997 interview with The Washington Post. “John, do you realize what you’re doing?” he remembered saying. “If I did what you asked, it’d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic.” ...

Several days later, Mr. Walters went to his immediate boss, Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz, showed him the list and recommended that the IRS do nothing. Mr. Shultz told him to lock the list in his safe.

By Sept. 15, Nixon had been told of Mr. Walters’s reluctance to follow instructions. “Why the hell did we promote him?” H. R. Haldeman, the White House chief of staff said, according to a tape. Nixon told Mr. Dean, “You’ve got to kick Walters’s ass out first and get a man in there.” The president added that Mr. Shultz needed to make sure that Mr. Walters left if he wanted to keep his own job.

Mr. Walters gave the list to Laurence N. Woodworth, chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. He wrote in his 2011 book, “Our Journey,” that this was the most important thing he did, “because then we could say with absolute certainty that IRS never began any audit or investigation of any name on that list because of the list.”

Mr. Walters testified to various committees investigating alleged Nixon misdeeds. He left office in April 1973.

USA Today, Former IRS Chief Recalls Defying Nixon:

At his home near Furman University, Johnnie Mac Walters remembers being pressured more than 40 years ago to do what he considered unthinkable. ... In the early 1970s, when embattled President Richard Nixon sought to use the Internal Revenue Service as a weapon to investigate his enemies, the administration turned to Walters, a Hartsville, S.C., native and head of the tax agency, to do the dirty work.

Walters, now 93, said he refused.

The IRS controversy currently dogging President Barack Obama has raised new allegations that the agency has been engaged in political meddling and bias. Obama has denounced as "outrageous" the targeting of conservative political groups by the IRS.

Walters walks with a cane now and is soft-spoken. But the recent IRS developments prompted him to sit down for an interview and resume his personal quest, not for vindication, but to validate his rejection of Nixon's tactics while he was commissioner of Internal Revenue. ...

Some Republicans have tried to link Obama to what the IRS has acknowledged was improper scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. "I'm distressed at what's happening and particularly with IRS," said Walters, a lifelong Republican. "IRS must be run nonpolitical. Our tax system otherwise will fail and we can't afford that."

June 26, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)

Morse: Supreme Court Clarifies Standard for Evidentiary Hearing in Enforcement of IRS Summons

Following up on Saturday's op-ed by Steve Johnson on Thursday's Supreme Court decision in United States v. Clarke, No. 13.301 (U.S. June 19, 2014):  SCOTUSBlog:  Court Clarifies Standard for Evidentiary Hearing in Enforcement of IRS Summons, by Susan C. Morse (Texas):

The Supreme Court on June 19 unanimously vacated and remanded an Eleventh Circuit per curiam decision in United States v. Clarke.  The Eleventh Circuit had reversed a district court refusal to grant a summons recipient an evidentiary hearing to challenge an IRS summons.  The Supreme Court emphasized the abuse of discretion standard applicable to the review of the district court’s decision and clarified the standard that the district court itself should apply.  It explained that “the taxpayer is entitled to examine an IRS agent when he can point to specific facts or circumstances plausibly raising an inference of bad faith.”  The decision leaves open an underlying legal question in the case:  whether improper purpose can follow from the issuance of a summons in retaliation for refusal to extend a statute of limitations and/or in anticipation of a not-yet-filed Tax Court suit.

June 26, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Slate: Things Are Looking Rosy for the Law School Class of 2018

Slate:  Apply to Law School Now! Things Are Looking Rosy for the Class of 2018, by Jordan Weissmann:

This might sound weird, but here goes: Now might be a pretty good time to think about law school. ...

Here is the key number to keep in mind: 36,000. That is roughly the number of new J.D.s we should expect to graduate in 2016. Getting to that figure is pretty straightforward: In the fall of 2013, 39,700 students enrolled in law school. Given that about 10 percent of each law school class generally drops out, we should expect no more than 36,000 to reach commencement. ...

In comparison, 46,776 law students graduated in 2013. So we’re talking about a potential 23 percent plunge.

With less competition it should be far easier for graduates to find decent work. Again, let’s assume the legal job market doesn’t grow at all in the next two years—that it simply stays flat. What might that look like?

We can break down last year’s class, using data from the American Bar Association. Among all graduates who reported their job status, 32,775 found full-time, long-term work, meaning the job lasted at least a year. ... Of those jobs, 26,337 required passing the bar, meaning they were typical legal jobs. An additional 4,714 were in fields that technically did not require law degrees, but where employers preferred to hire J.D.s anyway—think congressional staffers, labor organizers, or NGO workers. Finally, 1,724 were in jobs completely unrelated to law, which sounds bad, but the reality is that a certain number of graduates always do something unconnected to their degree.

140625_$BOX_LongTermFullTime

Let’s say those numbers hold. In that case, we can expect that about 91 percent of the class of 2016 will find long-term, full-time work, compared with about 72 percent last year. About 73 percent would be in full-time, long-term legal jobs, compared with 58 percent last year. Essentially, employment rates would look similar to those in 2007, when the mid-2000s legal hiring wave crested. That year, about 92 percent of graduates were employed, and 76.9 percent obtained legal jobs. (Both those figures included part-time and short-term positions).

(Hat Tip: Jordan Barry.)

Update:  Above the Law, The ATL Markup Of Slate’s ‘Apply To Law School Now!’ Article

June 26, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Mulligan: The Massive Tax Increase Hidden Inside Obamacare

Real Clear Politics:  The Massive Tax Increase Hidden Inside Obamacare, by Casey Mulligan (Chicago):

The ACA ... is full of implicit taxes. Many of them have remained hidden in the "fog of controversy" surrounding the law and their effects excluded from economic analyses of it. The chart below puts the ACA's new taxes in perspective of federal tax increases over the past seventy years. The taxes include federal personal income taxes (Form 1040, shown in pink), social insurance payroll taxes (gray), and various employment and implicit taxes (red).

Let's not be surprised that, as we implement a new law that taxes jobs and incomes, we are ending up with fewer jobs and less income.

N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard), How Much Has the Affordable Care Act Reduced Potential GDP?

June 26, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Papers from the 2013 IRS-TPC Research Conference: Administration at the Centennial

TPC-IRSThe IRS has released the papers from the 2013 IRS-TPC Research Conference: Administration at the Centennial (abstracts of papers here):

Session #1  Individual Income Tax Dynamics

Session #2:  Business Compliance Behavior

Session #3:  Corporation Income Tax Enforcement

Session #4:  Lessons From Other Tax Administrations

June 26, 2014 in IRS News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 413

Fox News Poll:  Voters Think IRS Emails Were Deliberately Destroyed:

The consensus is: it’s no accident. More than three-quarters of voters -- 76 percent -- think the emails missing from the account of Lois Lerner, the ex-IRS official at the center of the scandal over targeting of conservative groups, were deliberately destroyed. ... That suspicion is shared across party lines, albeit to varying degrees. An overwhelming 90 percent of Republicans think the emails were intentionally destroyed, as do 74 percent of independents and 63 percent of Democrats. Overall, just 12 percent of voters believe the emails were destroyed accidentally. Another 12 percent are unsure.

Poll 26 1

Poll 3

Poll 27 1

Poll 2

Wall Street Journal:  No Confidence: Hardly Anybody Believes the IRS's Story About Lois Lerner's "Lost" Emails, by James Taranto:

The proportion of respondents who believe the IRS's claim to have destroyed the emails accidentally: 12%. That's congressional-approval-rating territory. Seventy-six percent disbelieve the IRS story, and the remaining 12% say they're "unsure." Asked whether Congress should continue to investigate, the ayes had it, 74% to 21%. ...

Each of these developments refutes Obama's claim that there was "not even a smidgen of corruption." And if the public is right that the destruction of emails was a deliberate coverup--and keep in mind that not just Lois Lerner but six other IRS employees are said to have suffered contemporaneous hard-drive crashes--that surely qualifies as "mass corruption," even irrespective of the facts of the underlying scandal.

The Fox poll is a stunning vote of no confidence not just in the Obama administration but in the government itself. Public skepticism of government is a healthy impulse, and in this case it seems fully warranted. A government that cannot inspire even a minimal degree of public confidence is a danger to itself and to the country.

Red State:  An Intellectually Honest Media Would Ask This Question:

Ignore, for a minute, the IRS targeting of conservative groups and the erasure of seven hard drives at the IRS. Yes, ignore all that for a moment.

While the media is doing its best to avoid that subject, with difficulty, it is absolutely and willfully ignoring another IRS scandal that, had it happened in the Bush Administration, would be the lead story of every nightly newscast and above the fold on the front page of every newspaper in America.

We now know that some person or persons at the IRS intentionally and maliciously leaked confidential tax records of a non-profit organization so that gay rights activists could target the donors of the organization for harassment. We know this from the emails of the gay rights activist who obtained the records through, what he described, as “a conduit” from the IRS. He then sent the data to the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, which then put the records online. The records contained the names and addresses of donors to the National Organization for Marriage. The IRS is not only seemingly targeting conservative groups, but is now admitting to leaking information about a conservative group so others can target their donors.

Yes, the IRS is admitting someone at the IRS did this and is paying the legal fees of the National Organization for Marriage as a result.

The gay rights activist who received and disseminated the information, Matthew Meisel, “invoked his fifth amendment right not to incriminate himself” and he would not identify his conduit.

This all raises a question an honest media would ask: why has Eric Holder refused to investigate and prosecute this?

The American media will not ask this question because the National Organization for Marriage opposes gay marriage. The donors to the group, in the media’s mind, are bigots. To the American media they deserve no protection. They are oppressors.

But an honest media that believed in equal justice under the law would have to ask the question — why will the Justice Department not investigate and prosecute those within the IRS who leaked confidential tax records to political opponents of the group.

Must we wait until a Republican administration does this?

It seems we need more than one special prosecutor to investigate the IRS and Darryl Issa should be holding hearings on this matter. The IRS is not only seemingly targeting conservative groups, but is leaking information about conservative groups so others can target their donors.

Continue reading

June 26, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Osgood Presents Reform of [the Tax Treatment of] Nonprofit Institutions Today at Washington University

OsgoodRussell K. Osgood (Washington University) presents Reform of [the Tax Treatment of] Nonprofit Institutions at Washington University today as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:

The paper: 1) reviews the growth in many dimensions of the nonprofit sector, 2) discusses the history from 1969 onward of the 1969 Act and the subsequent lack of statutory reform due to Congressional inaction and the reasons for it, and 3) makes six significant proposals, including imposition of 1% excise tax on the endowments of all nonprofits, redrafting and narrowing the definitions of allowable 501(c)(3) purposes and regulating more heavily changes in purposes, expanding the taxation of quasi business income by taxing all income “not closely” related to the exempt purpose(s), eliminating much of the private foundation regime but requiring private foundations to liquidate after ten years and disqualifying them for any violation of core fiduciary duties, and revising the 170 deduction rules by limiting the deductibility (to the higher of adjusted basis or 50% of fair market value) of appreciated property, reducing the estate and gift tax charitable deduction limit to 50% (vs. 100%) of the gifted property, and reducing the regular contribution limits for all property and all taxpayers to a uniform 25% of adjusted gross income with only a one year carry forward.

June 25, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ: New Law School Courses at Columbia, Georgetown, Harvard, Pepperdine, and Yale

Wall Street Journal Law Blog, New Law School Courses Take on Robots, Videogames and Piketty-mania:

Schedule[Here] are among the more unconventional course offerings making their debut this fall semester, as law schools continue to expand their curricula beyond the world of torts, contracts and criminal procedure. It’s a trend that has drawn criticism from traditionalists like Justice Antonin Scalia, who thinks schools should stick to core subjects, while legal educators say students appreciate the chance to delve into more contemporary or quirky areas. At the very least, the new courses offer an interesting snapshot of faculty interests and research trends.

June 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

University of Oxford 8th Annual Academic Tax Symposium

OxfordThe Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation's 8th Annual Academic Tax Symposium continues today with these speakers and papers:

David Weisbach (Chicago), International Capital Taxation
Discussant:  Alan Auerbach (UC-Berkeley)

Chris Sanchirico (Pennsylvania), As American as Apple Inc.: Tax and Ownership Nationality
Discussant:  Ilan Benshalom (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) 

Johannes Becker (University of Muenster), A Negotiation-based Model of Tax-induced Transfer Pricing (with Ron Davies (University College Dublin))
Discussant:  Michael Stimmelmayer (KOF, ETH Zurich) 

Mitchell Kane (NYU), Transfer Pricing, Integration, and Novel Intangibles: A Consensus Approach to the Arm’s Length Standard
Discussant:  John Vella (Oxford University)

Alfons Weichenrieder (Goethe University Frankfurt), Does Exchange of Information Between Tax Authorities Influence Foreign Direct Investment Into Tax Havens? (with Julia Braun (WU Vienna University of Economics and Business))
Discussant:  Celine Azemar (Glasgow University) 

Jeffrey Hoopes (Ohio State), Real Costs of Disclosure: Evidence From an Exogenous Shock to Subsidiary Disclosure in the UK (with Jaron Wilde (Iowa))
Discussant:  Travis Chow (Singapore Management University)

David Agrawal (Georgia), The Internet as a Tax Haven? The Effect of the Internet on Tax Competition
Discussant:  Giorgia Maffini (Oxford University) 

June 25, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mankiw: How Inherited Wealth Helps the Economy

New York Times op-ed:  How Inherited Wealth Helps the Economy, by N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard):

Is inherited wealth making a comeback?

Yes, says Thomas Piketty, author of the best seller “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Inherited wealth has always been with us, of course, but Mr. Piketty believes that its importance is increasing. He sees a future that combines slow economic growth with high returns to capital. He reasons that if capital owners save much of their income, their wealth will accumulate and be passed on to their heirs. He concludes that individuals’ living standards will be determined less by their skill and effort and more by bequests they receive.

To be sure, one can poke holes in Mr. Piketty’s story. Since the book came out, numerous economists have been doing exactly that in book reviews, blog posts and academic analyses.

Moreover, given economists’ abysmal track record in forecasting, especially over long time horizons, any such prognostication should be taken with a shaker or two of salt. The Piketty scenario is best viewed not as a solid prediction but as a provocative speculation.

But it raises the question: So what? What’s wrong with inherited wealth?

First, let’s consider why parents leave bequests to their children. I believe that this decision is based on three principles:

  1. Intergenerational Altruism
  2. Consumption Smoothing
  3. Regression Toward the Mean

Together, these ideas explain why top earners often leave sizable bequests to their families. Because of intergenerational altruism, they make their consumption and saving decisions based not only on their own needs but also on those of their descendants. Because of regression toward the mean, they expect their descendants to be less financially successful than they are. Hence, to smooth consumption across generations, they need to save some of their income so future generations can consume out of inherited wealth. This logic also explains why many people aren’t inclined to reduce their current spending so they will have money saved for bequests. ...

The bottom line is that inherited wealth is not an economic threat. Those who have earned extraordinary incomes naturally want to share their good fortune with their descendants. Those of us not lucky enough to be born into one of these families benefit as well, as their accumulation of capital raises our productivity, wages and living standards.

June 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

A Contrarian Perspective on the Student Debt 'Crisis'

New York Times:  The Reality of Student Debt Is Different From the Clichés, by David Leonhardt:

The deeply indebted college graduate has become a stock character in the national conversation: the art history major with $50,000 in debt, the underemployed barista with $75,000, the struggling poet with $100,000.

The anecdotes have created the impression that such high levels of student debt are typical. But they’re not. They are outliers, and they’re warping our understanding of bigger economic problems.

In fact, the share of income that young adults are devoting to loan repayment has remained fairly steady over the last two decades, according to [Brookings Institution data]

Brookings Institution:  Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?, by Beth Akers & Matthew M. Chingos:

BrookingsCollege tuition and student debt levels have been increasing at a fast pace for at least two decades. These well-documented trends, coupled with an economy weakened by a major recession, have raised serious questions about whether the market for student debt is headed for a crisis, with many borrowers unable to repay their loans and taxpayers being forced to foot the bill.

In this report, Beth Akers and Matthew Chingos analyze more than two decades of data on the financial well-being of American households and find that in reality, the impact of student loans may not be as dire as many commentators fear. 

The authors draw on data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) administered by the Federal Reserve Board to track how the education debt levels and incomes of young households evolved between 1989 and 2010. Their analysis produces three particularly noteworthy and new findings:

  1. Roughly one-quarter of the increase in student debt since 1989 can be directly attributed to Americans obtaining more education, especially graduate degrees.  The average debt levels of borrowers with a graduate degree more than quadrupled, from just under $10,000 to more than $40,000.  By comparison, the debt loads of those with only a bachelor’s degree increased by a smaller margin, from $6,000 to $16,000.
  2. Increases in the average lifetime incomes of college-educated Americans have more than kept pace with increases in debt loads.  Between 1992 and 2010, the average household with student debt saw an increase of about $7,400 in annual income and $18,000 in total debt.  In other words, the increase in earnings received over the course of 2.4 years would pay for the increase in debt incurred.
  3. The monthly payment burden faced by student loan borrowers has stayed about the same or even lessened over the past two decades.  The median borrower has consistently spent three to four percent of their monthly income on student loan payments since 1992, and the mean payment-to-income ratio has fallen significantly, from 15 to 7 percent.  The average repayment term for student loans increased over this period, allowing borrowers to shoulder increased debt loads without larger monthly payments.

Figure. Monthly Student Loan Payment-to-Income Ratios, 1992-2010

Ratio of Loan Payments to Income

Continue reading

June 25, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wells: Corporate Inversions and Whack-a-Mole Tax Policy

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Bret Wells (Houston), Corporate Inversions and Whack-a-Mole Tax Policy, 143 Tax Notes 1429 (June 23, 2014):

In this article, Wells argues that until policymakers address the fundamental tax disparity that creates corporate inversions, ever changing forms of the transaction will continue to pop up like moles in a whack-a-mole game.

June 25, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Former Law Student Brings Federal Lawsuit Over D Grade in Contracts